🕊WINGLESS AND BEUTIFUL🕊
I didn’t see Chaise all Monday. He didn’t come up to meto my locker in between classes, did not join Denise and mefor lunch. I didn’t see him even when I headed to work inthe afternoon.
Fortunately, for the whole day, I also didn’t see Hunter. Iguess it was just my day off from worrying about either ofthem. That for once, I had the day for myself to figure outwhat I needed to do.
When I kissed Hunter again, it felt the same as before.Electricity radiated from his lips to mine. It felt exhilaratingand exciting… tormenting and heartbreaking all at the sametime. It brought back all the memories of our time together.He made me feel safe and secure… and even if the worldaround us was full of danger, he still made me feel like Ishouldn’t care. As long as I was in his arms everythingwas going to be okay.
Meredith asked me to quit my job at Alibri. She said shewould help me find a job, as long as I only did it over theweekends and I should stay indoors at nights. I was stillarguing with her about this and we hadn’t reached aconclusion yet. But Monday night, she picked me up fromwork. I was thankful because I wasn’t particularly thrilled towalk home alone.
“Thanks, Mer,” I told her as soon as I got out of the car.
“You actually shouldn’t have. I know you’re also tired fromyour work.”
“Don’t mention it, Alice. I’m your guardian. It’s my job tomake sure you’re safe,” Meredith said.
As we walked up the steps to the house, I turned back tothe street just in time to see a black Porsche slow down infront of our house and then drove away.I remember that car!It was Chaise’s. Did he follow us home to make sure Iwas home okay, like he used to in the past?But why didn’t he just show himself? What was wrong
with him? I feel like he was deliberately avoiding me. Whatdid I do to him? And how can I talk to him if he wouldn’teven see me?
The next day, when Chaise did not show up again inschool, I finally called him. He didn’t pick up. I must havecalled him more than a dozen times, but he just ignored mycalls. It was really bothering me. I just wanted to know if hewas okay, that he was safe.I sent him a text message:Chaise, I wonder where you are. I’m getting worried.
Everything alright?I waited for about ten minutes but I didn’t get anythingback from him. I don’t know if he was sick or he was mad at
me. But right now, as long as I know he was safe theneverything else was fixable.
The next day, I didn’t see Chaise or Hunter again. I wishI could give Hunter my diary. I wanted him to know not onlythat I was just friends with Chaise… I also wanted him tounderstand why. But right now, I don’t even know where mydiary is. I spent almost every day of the last one and a halfyears writing to Hunter on it. And now… I haven’t evengiven it to him, and I lost it.It bothered me that I could have dropped it somewhereand then it fell into the hands of people who didn’t havegood intentions for me. It wasn’t fair. Apart from myself,
only Hunter was the only other person who had the right toread it. And it worried me that right now that somebody elsecould be reading about my deepest, darkest fears… mymost truthful emotions; reading the words that were meant for the boy I waited for—the boy I still wanted to come backto me.Chaise did not show up to school the next day or thenext. And I knew something was really wrong. It was not likehim to just not show up for school, ignore my calls or mytext messages.
“Have you heard from him?” I asked Denise.
“I just hope that nothing bad happened.”
“Let me call his house,” Denise said, flipping her mobileto scan for Chaise’s name. Then she dialed the number andI waited anxiously beside her.
“Hi. Good afternoon. May I speak to Chaise please?”
Denise paused for a while and then she said, “Okay,thanks.”
I raised a brow at her as soon as she hung up thephone.
She shook her head. “He’s not home. His maid said heleft about two hours ago.”
I sighed in relief. “Thank God.”
“Now you could breathe,” Denise said, smiling. “At least,we know he hasn’t gone missing. That we’re still looking fora living person and not waiting for a corpse to turn up.”
I gave Denise a disapproving look and she laughed.
“You’re right. I miss our verbal judos. If he was here, hewould have said something hilarious.”
“I just wish I know what’s going on with him. He’s noteven answering my text messages.”
“Did you have a fight in the lake house?”
I shook my head. “Not that I remember. But he waspretty quiet on the way back.”
“I think he was really threatened with Hunter. He didn’tlike the fact that you and Hunter were left in the cabin byyourselves,” Denise said. Then she stared at me carefully,making me feel uncomfortable.
“You would tell me, right?” she asked. “If somethinghappened between you and Hunter… you would tell me.”
I took a deep breath and gave her a slight nod. I didn’twant to lie to her. But I can’t tell her about Hunter either…not yet.
“Speaking of Hunter, how is he? I don’t see him aroundeither.” I tried to sound cool so Denise would not suspectanything. But deep inside, I was dying to know her answer. Ihoped she wouldn’t say that he returned to Jacksonville… tosee Tania or to come back there for good.
“I have no idea what goes on with him. He’s taking up alot of extra school work to catch up on the year he wasaway from school. He’s like a ninja on stealth mode. Heattends school and aces his makeup tests and schoolworkbut we don’t really see him around,” she said dryly. “I barelysee him at home. He’s always out at night.”
“Really? Where does he go?”
“I really don’t know. We’ve gotten so used to it at home.Hunter is always out at nights since he returned from hissurgery. Many nights, he doesn’t even come home. I don’tknow where he sleeps, or if he sleeps at all. He’s like avampire,” she replied. “I wish I knew what’s going on in thatbrilliant mind of his. Anyway, I need to go. Catch you later.”
“Okay. See you later.”
I sighed in frustration after Denise left. Guess I’ll have towait another day to hear from either Chaise or Hunter. Ihoped to see Chaise soon because I wanted to set thingsstraight. Though, I wished I could see Hunter, even just aglimpse of him… because I simply missed him.
When I got home that day, Meredith had some news forme.
“I got promoted!” she squealed.
I jumped for joy and gave her a hug. “I’m so happy foryou, Mer!”
She stared at me for a moment. “And because of this…you don’t really have to work at Alibri.”
“Meredith, you were the one who got promoted. Notme.”
She shook her head. “My promotion means I could sparemore for your college education. If you get a scholarship,then we will be just fine. There is no need for you to riskgoing home late at night.”
“But Meredith, my college fees are not the only thingswe need to worry about. And besides… it’s your life I’mworried about too.”
Meredith gave me a gentle smile. “And you are my lifenow, Alice,” she said. “At first, I admit I hated your mom forforcing this on me. I was devastated when she took her ownlife. I thought it was very selfish of her to do that. I wasyoung… I couldn’t even take care of myself. I was scared!And knowing what happened to you… I thought you were
going to be difficult, Alice. I thought I would have to dealwith depression or rebellion.“But no. You were quiet. You tried to smile and joke a lot.You acted like everything was gonna be just fine. And that…scared me even more. I thought you would lose it… or blow
up anytime. I looked at you like a… walking time bombready to explode any minute. But you didn’t. And then youmet Hunter and fell in love. You were just fine. I realized howstrong you really were. You were far stronger than I was. Iwould never be able handle what happened to you.“I found it difficult to come to terms with losing my
sister. But for you… it was your mom and stepdad. I don’tthink I’ve seen anybody stronger than you were. And younever wanted anybody to take care of you… or worry aboutyou. You don’t demand special attention or sympathy justbecause of what happened to you. In spite of your history,you still thought about the feelings of the people aroundyou. You were very considerate, thoughtful… selfless.”
She sighed. “If Hunter or Chaise were both trying to winyou over, fighting over you… or breaking their hearts overyou… don’t even ask yourself why, Alice. You are awonderful young woman. You’re wise beyond your years andstronger than any storm that came your way. You werebeautiful to begin with… your scars only added strength to
your beauty. Those boys were right to be crazy about you.”
I looked down at my fingers as I listened to Meredith. Inever really knew what she thought about me. And hearingher say those words, I understood a lot about myself. It waswrong of me to think so low of myself, just because I had adark history and damaged skin to remind me of mynightmares.
Meredith smiled at me again. “I asked CRC if they havea job for you. Turns out they were looking for an assistant inthe library to work there on Saturdays. I know the pay maynot be as much as you receive at Alibri, but it would helpyou save if that’s what you want. Besides, once you’re incollege, you can work out a better schedule if you want toget a job.”
She was right. My job at Alibri was far too risky. I gotaway with doing it because Chaise faithfully picked me upevery night. I was lucky to get away from those potheadsbecause he was following me, making sure I was safe. But Icouldn’t keep on doing that to Chaise anymore. It wasn’t fairbecause I knew he was doing it hoping I would be able toreturn his feelings someday. But I knew that would never
happen. It would always be Hunter.That evening, when I went to work, I gave Mrs. Baileymy resignation. She was sad that I had to go but I explainedto her that it was difficult for me to go home every night. Itold her about the night I was attacked and if Chaise wasn’t
there to save me, I would have been history. She truly feltsorry for me and told me that she understood my decision.
By Friday, Chaise was still a no show. I was beginning tohear rumors around that he was moving away. But I refused to believe them until I heard it from him myself. Chaisewould at least say goodbye to me. Right?After my last class, I went to my locker and saw a notestuck on my door. I took it and read a letter that I was surewas written in Chaise’s handwriting.
This is probably one of the hardest letters I havewritten.
I haven’t gone to see you this past week. I wanted to.
But somehow, I couldn’t find the courage to face you.
I want to say I’m sorry for everything. All I was thinking about was myself and how badly I wanted to be with you, Iforgot that I should be thinking about your happinessinstead of mine. And I’m not really proud of what I did.I know I’m not making sense right now, but soon youwould know what I am talking about.
I would like to make up for everything. Tonight.
This town has a garden, overlooking a lake that hasswans in the day… and fireflies at night. I think you knowwhat garden I am talking about.
Go there, Alice. Now, as soon as you get this note. Giveme a chanceto make up for what I did… for getting in the
way… for being so selfish.
My hands were shaking as I read his letter. Questionsraced through my mind. I looked around me to look for anysigns of Chaise. But apart from two other kids who weregetting things from their lockers, there was just me. I putthe note in my bag and then I went out of the campus.What was Chaise planning to do? Where was he? And
how the hell did he know about the garden in CRC? OnlyHunter and I knew about that.Unless…
My heart pounded in my chest and I felt the hairs in mynape rise. Unless… Chaise found my diary.
When I came back from the lake house, my diary wasgone. Chaise had all night to go through my stuff if Denisewasn’t looking. He’d seen me write on it before. He musthave recognized it. I guess curiosity got the better of him.If he started reading it, then would he know… he wouldknow who I was writing it for. He would know who the guyhe was hoping to replace in my heart was.
I took the bus to CRC and got there in fifteen minutes.The moment I stepped into the grounds, memories ofHunter flooded back to me. I remembered how we fell inlove in this unlikely place. Here, we both found the will tofight and live our lives again. Here lies a world where onlythe two of us existed… old souls, young hearts.
As I approached the gate, I felt somebody pull my hand.I turned back and found Chaise staring back at me.
He pulled me towards the parking lot, without saying aword.
“Chaise, are you okay?” I asked.
He didn’t reply until we reached the parking spacewhere his black Porsche was. It had been a while since I lastsaw him drive that. I noticed the long scratch on the hood,courtesy of the potheads he fought to save me that night. Ithought he said he had sent the car to get it fixed. Howcome the scratch was still there?I was about to ask that but when I looked up at him, Isaw that he had a bruise beside his lips and there was a cuton his left brow. His cheek was also red and slightly swollen.His injury looked fresh, like he’d been in a fight only thatday.
“Oh my God, Chaise, what happened to you?” I asked.
He shook his head. “It doesn’t matter,” he replied. “Idon’t have much time.”
“What’s going on?”
“I only have a few minutes to spare. Then I need toleave.”
“Leave to where?”
“Back to Berlin,” he replied.
He shook his head. “Berlin’s my home, Alice.”
“I know. I just didn’t think you’d be back there so soon.”
He shrugged. “I’m kidding myself if I truly believed Ibelonged here in the first place.”
“So what? I never belonged here too. But you told me tosuck it up!”
Chaise shook his head. “I need to tell you something.
And I know that when I’m done, you’re gonna want me goneanyway.”
“What is it?”
He took a deep breath. Then he said, “I’m sorry, Alice. Iam so sorry.”
He looked at me with an apologetic look on his face. “Itook your diary.”
“I think ‘stole’ is the operative word,” I said, raising abrow at him.
He sighed. “Okay. I stole it.”
“Why would you do that?”
“I had to find my answers. I know that if I asked, youwouldn’t tell me. I always saw you writing in your diary. Ihave always been curious about its contents. And when Ineeded answers to the questions in my mind, I knew I wouldfind it there. So when you were left in the cabin, I took thatchance to take the diary.”
I took a moment to absorb what he was telling me. ThenI asked, “What answers were you looking for?”
“When… when Mica pushed you and Vaughnimmediately jumped into the water to save you, I felt thatsomething wasn’t right. His action was too automatic, it couldn’t have been on mere instinct,” he replied. “He knew,beforehand, that you couldn’t swim, didn’t he?”
I bit my lip and didn’t answer.
“Vaughn had always been watching you. Every time wewere in the same room together, I would see his eyes neverleave you. I didn’t take it seriously at first. After all, almostall the boys in Leighton High were curious about you. Abouthalf of us were infatuated with you. Beautiful, tough, smartand talented Allison Harley. Why would Vaughn be anydifferent?”
I didn’t answer. I allowed Chaise to say everything hecame to say. “On the deck that day, I heard him play thesame song you played in the concert. And it clicked in mymind that once, you told Denise that your ex-boyfriendtaught you how to play that song. It could have been a
coincidence, sure. But not when you added up all the clues.
“And then that morning we found you in the room in thecabin, I knew we interrupted something. I saw it in both yourfaces. And when I touched the Braille inscription on yourpendant, I confirmed all my suspicions.”
He took a deep breath and with a teary voice, he said,
“Hunter Vaughn was the reason you couldn’t fall in love withme.”
Tears rolled down my cheeks this time. I wiped themwith my fingers and then I whispered, “I’m sorry, Chaise. Iwanted to tell you… but I didn’t know how not to hurt you.”
Chaise shook his head. “No, Alice. Don’t apologize.” Hisvoice sounded heavy with guilt and sadness. “I’m the onewho should apologize to you. I loved you so much, but I hadbeen selfish! And I have to come clean now. I have to stoppretending that I could steal you away from him. I was thereason you couldn’t be together. I kept you apart! I lied toyou! I was so desperate to win your heart, I resulted to… tolies! Pretenses. I made you believe that I was your savior,your guardian angel. When in truth, I was no angel at all.”
“No, Chaise. Don’t say that. You did a lot of things forme. You saved my life. I wouldn’t be here now if it weren’tfor you. You were my hero.”
Chaise stared at me with tears in his eyes. He shook hishead slowly. “No, Alice. I’m no hero. And those potheadsweren’t meant to hurt you anyway. They were just supposedto scare you off.”
I stared back at him, this time confused at what he justsaid. “What do you mean?”
Chaise drew another deep breath, like he was drawingcourage along with it. “Those guys weren’t lawless addicts.They were just supposed to be harmless school dropouts.”
“How would you know that?”
“Because I… I paid them to wait for you and pretendthey would hurt you.”
I couldn’t believe my ears. “Excuse me? Say thatagain?”
“Alice… I staged that scene.”
I stared at him blankly for about fifteen seconds.What the fvck was he saying?
I saw embarrassment and shame cross his face when hereplied, “So I could swoop in and pretend to save you. Soyou would… let me in.”
I felt like the world was crashing down in front of me andI wanted nothing more than to punch all of Chaise’s teethdown his throat. “Oh my God, Chaise! How could you dothat?”
Chaise reached forward to take my hand in his but Isnatched them away.
“Alice, please,” he pleaded. “I’m sorry. I was desperate. Icared about you, and I had every intention of taking care ofyou. I just didn’t know how to get through to you. It was… itwas the only way I could think of.”
Strong emotions enveloped me in waves I could hardlycontrol. Anger was the most dominant of them, and before I knew it, I felt my palm land strongly on Chaise’s left cheek.
“I could have died!” I cried. “Even though you paid themto pretend to harass me, they were high. And their attackdidn’t feel staged at all! I remember being pulled anddragged with force! I got hurt, Chaise! Before you came andrescued me, I had to struggle to get away from them! I wasscared! How could you do that to me?”
Chaise looked at me with teary eyes. All he could saywas, “I’m sorry… I’m sorry.”
“You wanted to look like a hero, so you put my life onthe line! And you said you love me?” I glowered at him. “Doyou even know that… that guy had a knife?”
“I didn’t know that. I’m sorry. I made a grave mistakethat night! When I saw you being attacked… when I saw himpull a knife and scratch the car, I realized the danger I putyou through.”
“So, you staged all that, you scratched your car, riskedmy life, so you could display what a good fighter you were?So you could display your Karate skills in front of me? Soyou could enter my life?”
He shook his head. “I am so sorry, Alice. I don’t deserveyour friendship. I don’t deserve to be called your guardianangel.”
“You’re damn right, you don’t!” I said angrily. “Leave mealone, Chaise!”
He reached out to touch me but I took a step back.
“Don’t touch me! Stay the hell away from me!”
He nodded. “I’m so sorry, Alice,” he pleaded. “I hopesomeday, somehow, you will find it in your heart to forgiveme.”
I shook my head. “I don’t know if I could ever forgiveyou, Chaise. You lied to me. You tricked me. And you put mylife in danger.”
“I know,” he said. He waived his hand towards his face.
“I got a good beating for it, but I don’t think it will ever beenough.”
“What are you saying?”
“I’m saying Karma catches up fast,” he replied. “But thisis nothing compared to the pain and guilt that I feel inside,Alice. I hope someday, you will believe how truly sorry Iam.”
“Oh, I believe you’re sorry. I just don’t believe I will beable to forgive you,” I said with a sullen expression on myface.
He nodded. “And I deserve that.”
I took a step back, staring at him angrily. “Get out of myface, Chaise!”
He sighed. “I promise you, Alice. You will never lose yourguardian angel. You may not believe anything that comesout of my mouth right now, but please, believe in that.”
I don’t understand what he meant, but I was beyondcaring. All I wanted was to get my diary back and get thehell away from him.
“What have you done to my diary?” I asked.
“Don’t worry, it’s perfectly safe.”
“Where the fvck is it, Chaise?”
“In there.” He pointed towards CRC. I raised a brow athim. “I think you know exactly where.”
I turned to leave but he pulled my arm. I stared back at him with an ice cold expression on my face.
“I know what I did was unforgiveable,” he said. I couldtrace desperation in his voice. “There’s one more thing I liedabout.”
“Really? You’re not done yet? You’ve got to be kiddingme!”
He shook his head. “Those potheads took it seriouslyand the danger you faced may have been real. The thingis… I don’t deserve to be called your guardian angel, butsomebody does. And you must know… I don’t know Karateat all.”
Without giving me a chance to argue or ask any morequestion, he walked away to the opposite side of the parking lot and hopped on to his jeep.I was confused, because I was standing in front of theblack Porsche that Chaise drove that night he saved mefrom the potheads. Well, back when I thought he saved me.Why did he leave his car here?
I realized I had a more pressing matter to attend to thanworry about Chaise’s car.I went inside CRC and took the path towards the garden.
I was surprised that I still remembered every step that led toit. The familiarity of the scenery almost made me want tocry. It had been so long… and yet I still remembered the boywho used to walk beside me every step of the way in thisgarden. The boy who couldn’t see but was the one guidingme, protecting me while we were within the grounds of thisfacility.
When I reached the garden, it was already sunset. Thefireflies were starting to come out. I walked towards thebench but stopped short when I realized that there wassomebody there, sitting on top of the table. He was wearinga gray jacket with the hood covering his face.
Immediately, I was reminded of the boy who stood inthe shadows and watched over me, followed me until I wassafely home… the boy who saved me from the potheads
My guardian angel.His head was bent, I realized that he was holding anotebook in his hands, reading its pages.
My diary!I stood behind him, afraid to make a sound. But slowly,
he closed the diary in his hands, and I had a feeling healready sensed he was no longer alone. He stood up andslowly turned around towards me.I watched him raise his hand and pull his hood off his
head, revealing his face.My heart caught in my throat as I looked into his familiareyes. Tears welled up in my eyes and a lump formed in my
throat as realization crept through me.
Suddenly, everything made sense. I realized why Chaisesaid that those potheads took everything seriously and thedanger that I faced suddenly turned real. I understood whyhe said he didn’t know a thing about Karate, even though,my rescuer showed perfect fighting skills to save me fromthose guys.It turned out, the boy I called my guardian angel all thistime… was not Chaise at all.It had been Hunter all along.